Proper 8 A St Marks
In the name of God our Creator
Jesus Christ our Redeemer
and the Holy Spirit our Sustainer. Amen..
Reading scripture always an interesting challenge.
every time we read the same passage,
which in the church liturgical pattern
is every three years, at least,
we are in a different place in our lives.
Think of where you were three years ago..
Pray for where you want to be three years from now…
something new occurs in our interpretation.
Today is definitely one of those days.
“Whoever welcome you,” Jesus said
and whoever welcomes me,
welcomes the one who sent me.”
What that means
is that the disciple or disciples Jesus is speaking to,
whoever she or he might be
actually embodies Jesus as a Kingdom-bearer
wherever they go and whatever they do.
They are never just themselves anymore.
Jesus was big on the concept of “agentry”.
(Not a word spell-check likes.)
that is, he believed strongly
that the disciple who went out in his name
was not just a “representative,”
but was, in fact,
an extension of his own being and authority.
In other words,
when the world encountered a disciple of Jesus,
they were encountering Jesus.
That’s quite a mantle we carry….
To borrow from the well-known passage,
and to amend it slightly;;
we, the agents of Christ,
ARE “the way, the truth and the life”
to the world.
For better or worse, for richer or poorer,
in sickness and in health
until death do us part..
Jesus is judged, known, through us,
by how OUR faith
is witnessed by all who come into contact with us.
In some sense,
as much as it ought to make us tremble at the prospect,
our witness, our lives establish not only who we are-
but who Jesus is.
That can inspire or un-inspire others
to follow or not to follow
the way of Christ.
Our level of commitment,
our willingness to continue day after day
to be transformed by the Spirit,
what we stand for and how we stand for it,
validates Christianity in the world.
The point of these verses is that Jesus intended
for the Gospel to be spread less propositionally
and more relationally.
It’s about the Spirit being communicated
from flesh to flesh, in all of its fullness,
from person to person.
That was and is to be the model.
Think about it from your own life..
Did a proposition get you out of bed,
dress you, feed you breakfast, drive the car to the church
and present you to be baptized?
Did a proposition pour water on you, dry you off,
anoint you with oil and the welcome you into
the kingdom of God?
Did a proposition vow to support and uphold you
through the peaks and valleys of life? or pray with you ,
love you in spite of your unlovable days
and give you a kick in the rear when you needed it?
Its relational, you can talk about it all you want,
but it has to be caught more than taught if it’s to last.
I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone.
But being we need to be reminded from time to time,
how we witness in our lives
It helps, as we examine, to think about the “why” .
The “why” being spreading the Good news of Jesus,
day by day, person by person, action by action.
Not so that all go our way
or even that all become enlightened Episcopalians,
but so that the way of Christ becomes contagious
and can be “caught”.
That ministry, that way of living
calls for a wholehearted commitment.
unique for everyone….
Theologian Kierkegaard summed it up this way:
“The thing is to understand myself,
to see what God wants ME to do.
The thing is to find the truth for ME.
To find the reality for which I can live or die.”
(repeat) to see what God wants me to do
to be my unique person for God
The best way, perhaps the only way,
we can be agents and contagious is through love.
One of the strongest types of love on earth,
is the one parents have for their children
and children for their parents.
In its best incarnation,
it’s a live and let live into their fullest
type of love…
Yes it can be abused and misused;
but stay with me here.
But Jesus says in another passage
“whoever loves father and mother or Child
more than him
is not worthy of him…
That’s not because we shouldn’t love the other
Rather it means that by loving and living
into the love of Christ,
growing more and more Christ like
we can truly love others more fully…
Thus be more welcoming, more invitational
and to have that amazing ability to be contagious
with Christ’s love…
That’s what feeds us, feeds the souls of others
and grows the body of Christ.
As I was writing this, and thinking of the message of today
it’s important for me to say
that much of the witness of the love of Christ
can be modeled after the ministry of a Deacon.
And none more so than your Sallie.
She has the love of Christ and of Christ’s people
at the top of her list every day and
her self, her discerned self,
models the Kirkkegaard pattern
of finding your individual reality,
and living into it.
She discerned her unique calling
and has been using her gifts ever since.
She has been a blessing to you
and you to her.
We will celebrate with Sallie later.
Pray that she and you will have a good goodbye
and that she will be welcomed
into her new ministry at St. Augustines.
Speaking of welcoming…
St Mark’s has been doing quite a bit of that .
For the past year you have been welcoming different priests
to be your celebrant on Sundays and other occasions.
Last week you welcomed Bishop Lee.
And he gave some excellent counsel
from his decades of experience
about how to be faithful, how to welcome a new Rector
and much more.
And now, thanks to the efforts of the staff at the diocese,
the lay leadership in the past year
and the support of all of this congregation
you are now welcoming Tyrone Foulkes
to be your new Rector, Time Certain.
Answered prayer and Thanks be to God!!
As a witness to the comments and expressions from the Vestry,
this is a very, very exciting time.
Sometimes in a church, it takes a while to come to consensus.
But once the name was presented and the interview began,
this was quick, enthusiastic and unanimous.
He and they obviously found not just common ground,
but shared thoughts for inspired future ministry
as a community of faith…
They have had important discussions
on working together in Christ’s name.
And at the Vestry meeting on Wednesday
the enthusiasm and excitement was palpable.
Perhaps a little relief in there,
but thrilling to witness.
And so now it is planning for the next phase of transition.
getting him to Raleigh, moved in
and sorting out how to begin ministry together.
How will he meet folks? Let’s not inundate.
Let’s give him lots of the opportunities he wants and you want,
to listen, to share and so forth…
they, the Vestry and you,
will be excitedly planning and anticipating
the introductory coming weeks and months.
An incredibly important time.
Be certain to welcome him as Jesus’ agent
and as Jesus would.
Praying for each other, for all involved is very important.
I commend the prayer that is in your bulletin,
for the time of transition,
to be added to your daily prayers.
I’m now putting on my transition /Interim ministry hat.
It might surprise you that in 20+ years of ministry,
I have found that one of those lesser earthly loves that people
often put ahead of their love for Jesus
is their love for the Church.
That may sound strange,
because one may think that when one loves the Church,
one is loving Jesus.
Not always true.
Sometimes we are more devoted to the institution
than to its founder.
We may become overly concerned about the survival of the parish.
worrying about attendance numbers,
worrying about pleasing everyone,
looking at newcomers as a source of income-
wanting have a Rector that can turn the church
into having some sort of new GLORY days.
That just might be, in my experience,
having concern about preserving the institution
as we know it and love it
than loving Jesus.
What that just might be revealing by anxious concern,
is that we really do not trust Jesus, to lead and sustain the church.
Or that the congregation will not survive
without our best efforts.
There are significant consequences when we trust ourselves,
or any human instead of Jesus.
What I pray you will do,
is leave room for the Spirit.
Lots and lots of room and time for the Spirit
to work in each of you,
in Tyrone, in the community around you
Remember that Christ said:
that if we lose ourselves
for the sake of the Gospel
then we will find the authentic
and abundant life that Jesus promises.
What is true individually
is also true for the body of the whole the parish.
If we lose our life in Jesus,
putting our trust in him,
then the corporate life of this congregation
will fulfill the purpose God has given it,
joyfully incorporating and nurturing persons
in relationship with our Creator
and carrying the work
that is yours to do.
You’ve done a lot of good work and there is more to do.
Remember that it is Jesus we love and serve,
and not the church or anything else.
If follows then that the Church will serve Jesus
to its fullest potential.
Give the Spirit time, then more time,
love unceasingly, pray diligently,
welcome as Jesus’ agents
and To God be the glory! Amen.
Rev. Melanie Mudge